Thursday, July 15, 2010

Mosque in Murfreesboro, TN

You know, sometimes I'm almost embarrassed to be a Christian. I awoke this morning to a local NPR piece about a standoff at the Murfreesboro, TN courthouse yesterday. A large Islamic center is scheduled to be built in Murfreesboro in the next year, and folks were holding rallies to oppose it and to support it. In the end, it was one big shouting match. Some of the sound bytes coming from Christians opposing the mosque were utterly depressing. Most of them implied that the mosque will be a training ground for terrorists, and that we can't allow Islam to grow, because it will destroy our country. Right, because hatred and bigotry doesn't hurt our country. Anyway, I continue to be saddened by the intolerance and ignorance of some of my fellow Christians.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Familiar Stories

I'm in the midst of reading God is Not One by Stephen Prothero. I heard a good On Point podcast featuring Prothero and thought I would read his book. In short, he proposes that interfaith dialogue isn't helpful when we simply imply that God is one and the differences between religions aren't all the important. That's a brief summary, and I won't explore it further until I've read the whole book.

Today, I'm reading the section about Buddhism, and I'm finding the chapter somehow comforting. I took a class on Buddhism at Truman State University back in the day, and while the professor was a bit of a pompous ass, I thoroughly enjoyed the class as a whole. Each week we were given a different style of meditation to try, and we explored various "forms" of Buddhism. I did my final paper on the similarities and differences between Buddhist and Christian mystics. In any case, reading the basic story of the Buddha and being reminded of Dharma/The Way of Enlightenment has brought a sort of joy to me today. The best comparison I can make is the enjoyment I gain from re-reading a favorite book, or hearing a familiar story told again and again. My grandpa used to tell us bedtime stories about a talking white horse, and although the story didn't vary much, I looked forward to those stories as a child.

I write all of this and ponder the proper place for story and narrative in the teaching and preaching of Scripture. I fear, as I'm sure scholars more intelligent than I have already feared, that the ancient stories of Scripture are losing their familiarity in the midst of e-mailed stories that, while poignant, have no root in reality. I wonder about the over all effect of telling the same context-related stories year after year in sermons while leaving so many scriptural stories to sit on the pages of those enormous pulpit Bibles. As I walk on the journey with adolescents, I struggle to point them back to Biblical stories and realize that, when it comes down to it, their own stories carry more weight and authority, and if not their stories, the stories of their parents, or the preacher, or the ethics teacher, or heaven forbid, the youth worker (that would be me).

The irony of all this is that within the traditions of Buddhism, finding one's own way to enlightenment regardless of doctrine, sacred books, or even the gods themselves is valued. The last words of Siddartha (the Buddha) are reputed to have been: "Be lamps unto yourselves; work out your own liberation with diligence." Have we become a faith of Buddhists? Have we decided that we are, in fact, our own best authority? Do we expect scripture to find its way into our narratives rather than seeking to find ourselves in scripture's narratives? I do wonder.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Wild church vans

Today, as I was going to play golf (I shot 19 over, btw...stupid three putts) I saw a church van in a cage with that curly razor wire all along the top of the cage. That must be one wild church van to need such a cage. I wonder what it did. Did it stay out too late? Did it run a red light? Did it go on a rager and end up in Mexico? Just wondering about a church van with a cage.